Dakar: Al Qassimi completes fruitful testing campaign in Liwa ahead of Dakar 2018
AL QASSIMI: “If you want to build your confidence then you’ve got to learn how to tackle Liwas’ dunes first”
The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge winner will be behind the wheel of a Peugeot 3008 DKR Maxi run by PH Sport in Dakar 2018
ABU DHABI, (UAE): Abu Dhabi Racing driver and Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge winner, Sheikh Khalid bin Faisal Al Qassimi is continuing his preparations with intensive testing sessions in the Liwa desert in prior to the 40th edition of the historic Dakar Rally, which will run from January 6-20, 2018.
The anniversary edition will run through three countries in South America – Peru, Bolivia and Argentina – and the Abu Dhabi Racing driver is aiming for a good result at the end of the annual event that attracts some of the biggest names from across the globe.
Sheikh Khalid has been busy with intense testing runs in the desert in the company of his co-driver Xavier Panseri. He was pleased with what the team has achieved over the past few days of tough testing in the desert sands.
“Testing has been very difficult especially because I have not driven in severe desert conditions such as these for the past eight months. Yet it has been a fruitful period because the conditions have been very, very difficult and that throws up fresh and further challenges before us as a team,” Sheikh Khalid said.
“Making things even more difficult was the fact that we were the only people in the desert and any mistake could prove to be very costly. Besides, the sand was very, very soft and in such conditions it is very difficult to get a proper traction for the car,” he added.
Sheikh Khalid is confident his experience of testing in the extreme conditions of Liwa will best assist him when he tackles the dunes during Dakar. “Liwa has that something special for everyone. The conditions are the most extreme ones and from experience, if one can handle conditions in Liwa then he can go through with any of the rallies. This is what makes Liwa so special. There are a lot of surprises as the dunes change continuously. So if you want to build your confidence then you’ve got to learn how to tackle Liwa first and take the fear out of you. I firmly believe that no one other rally comes even ten per cent close to Liwa conditions,” he remarked.
Behind the wheel of a Peugeot 3008 DKR Maxi run by PH Sport, this will be the second time that Panseri will be Sheikh Khalid’s co-driver. The Frenchman first co-drove for Sheikh Khalid in Rally Morocco last year.
“Yes, definitely the focus for us at this moment is to get our chemistry right. We have done 800kms, if not more in the soft sands and this has been enough time for us to get to know each other better and understand how each of us thinks,” Sheikh Khalid noted.
“The progress has been good so far. I feel that I can understand him well, but of course there are a few points that we need to develop as part of being one team. For sure, the key element here is that we need to remain patient and not make any mistakes. We need to avoid getting stuck or getting lost in the desert. You cannot afford to make mistakes and then hope to win or be at the top of the standings. It is a very long rally and we need to be at our best at all times,” he added.
Sheikh Khalid has been testing in the old 2008 DKR Peugeot car, while as the new Peugeot 3008 DKR Maxi is on the way to Lima. “There is no big difference in the two cars, both are a rear wheel drive busy style cars. The biggest technique that we’ve got to master for the moment is that we need to ensure how not to get stuck in the sand in whatever car we are in. No doubt, there is very little difference in driving the old car and the new one,” Sheikh Khalid disclosed.
The Dakar 2018 will feature seven off road stages made up of 100 per cent dunes. The rally, set over 9,000 kms, of which nearly 5,000 kms will be special stages and more than 4,000 kms of road sections.
The 40th edition of the Dakar Rally will take place on the South American continent for the tenth time with drivers getting the opportunity to re-acquaint themselves with the Pacific Ocean and the Peruvian dunes, which the riders and drivers will tackle after having enjoyed several days in the Peruvian capital of Lima.
The race then continues on to Bolivia, where the rest day will take place in the capital city, La Paz. From there the race moves to Argentina, concluding in Córdoba, which will host the finish of the Dakar for the first time.
Handling altitude will be yet another aspect of training for the Abu Dhabi team as they would be required to race at a height of more than 3,600 metres. Since the past one month, Sheikh Khalid has included cardio and specialized circuit training to his daily regimen. “We have been training with altitude masks, while trying to use maximum valves for the masks to get as close to the conditions that we would be going through,” he related.
In 2017, Al Qassimi’s Dakar Rally debut came to a sudden and premature end with just one day to go following a technical snag on Stage 11 from San Juan to Rio Cuarto which comprised of a total distance of 759 kms, of which 288 kms were competitive. At the time of his unfortunate retirement mid-way through the stage, Sheikh Khalid was in ninth position and looking to improve upon his tenth overall in the classifications going into the final day.
A competition of extremes and an orienteering race, the Dakar brings together the leading rally raid riders and drivers, as well as amateur competitors who come to fulfill their dream, experience an adventure and meet the biggest challenge of their life on a bike, on a quad, in a car or in a truck. Over the last 40 years, each year 500 participants from more than 60 nationalities have come together for 15 days of a unique competition on which extraordinary feats of human endeavour are played out